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The Inspiring Evolution & Growth Of eSports

Esports Industry

What is eSports?

In simple terms, eSports refers to Electronic Sports. Over the recent years, the gaming industry has witnessed a surge in popularity. The number of professional gamers and spectators are on a constant rise. With this growing popularity, competitive gaming- the gaming competitions in which the professional players compete either as individuals or teams have taken the form of eSports.

According to the data by Statista, the audience size for eSports is 495 million worldwide. Out of which 272 million people are frequent visitors/enthusiasts, and 223 million occasional viewers.

Let us dive into the evolution of eSports into becoming what it is today:

Earliest Known history of eSports:

- 50s & 60s:

It might not be a well-known fact that the history of eSports (in the form of video games) dates back to the 1950s. The first-ever graphical computer game was created by Mr.Alexander Shafto “Sandy” Douglas when he converted the game XOX (popularly known as ‘Tic-Tac-Toe’) into a computer game in 1952. It was created with humans against the computer approach.

The first-ever multiplayer video game was created in 1958 by Physicist William Higinbotham. It was a 2-player tennis game and was named Tennis for Two. Mr.Higinbothams had created the game for its inclusion into an exhibit to capture visitors' interests by engaging them in a game. According to an article on APS Physics, in an interview, Mr.Higinbothams recalled that he wanted the game to “convey a message that the scientific endeavors have relevance to the society”. But probably unknown to him, he had laid the foundation stone for the eSports industry.

- 70s:

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The 1970s also saw the inception and surge of Arcade games that brought the masses to digital gaming. Arcade games were coin-operated machines that were installed in public places such as restaurants or amusement parks. These gaming arenas with coin-operated machines are existent even today in many parts of the world. These arenas are equipped with sophisticated machines and several games that include car & bike racing, light guns, redemption games, etc., and are a go-to place for kids. The first arcade game machine and the game Computer Space was created in 1971 by Mr.Nolan Bushnell and Mr.Ted Dabney, co-Founders of Atari Inc.

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In 1975, Mr.Nolan came up with a machine that was flexible & portable; and would be the console to play the games of Atari. Nolan was aware of the high potentiality of the product and the heavy capital investment to bring these consoles out in the market. Hence, Atari was sold to Warner Communications (now WarnerMedia) in 1976. In 1977, the console (named Atari 2600) was launched in the market, which has become one of the most successful consoles in history.

The 1970s saw the inception of gaming competitions. It is believed that Spacewar, organized by Stanford University in 1972, was the first-ever video game competition in the history of the gaming industry that saw a participation of 24 players, and the winner received a free subscription to the Rolling Stone Magazine.

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But it was the Space Invaders Championship organized in 1980 by Atari Inc., which is officially the earliest large-scale video game competition in history. It attracted more than 10,000 players across the United States and helped establish the gaming competitions, better known as Competitive Gaming in the world.

Growth, Recession, & Survival of eSports in the 80s:

The popularity of video games was on the rise. It had caught the attention of children and eventually became their favorite pass time. The launch of Twin Galaxies, a gaming records book by Walter Day in the 1980s helped boost the interest in video games.

Esports Industry The gaming consoles produced by Atari created a mass reach as it made the purchase of a video game system affordable. While the Atari consoles included their own games, it gave rise to third-party game developers in the early 1980s. The number of third-party developers increased rapidly. They were on the look-out to capitalize on the success of Atari and capture a market share. This race resulted in many inexperienced developers entering the market and producing low-quality games.

These poor quality games drifted the children away from the arcades and consoles. The focus shifted to personal computer software games given that the cost of personal computers at that time slashed, almost costing the same as a gaming console, due to competition. It led to a massive fall in the video games industry in 1983. It has been called the recession of the video game industry in the USA that lasted for two years until 1985. This recession led to the bankruptcy of various game development companies in the USA. The blow of this recession even broke Atari Inc. apart.

The video game industry in the USA made a comeback with the launch of the NES Console by Nintendo in 1985. The export of widely popular Nintendo’s NES Console, launched in Japan in 1986, had begun in 1987. The video game enthusiasts in the USA showed interest, and the sales of NES Console picked up well that helped the recovery and revival of the gaming industry.

Growing popularity in the 90s:

The surging sales of consoles helped revive the gaming and eSports industry after the downfall. Nintendo had their dominance on the game console market. Other gaming consoles like Genesis launched by Sega joined the race. The gaming events had restarted with Nintendo World Championship in 1990. The booming of the internet also helped increase the potential of gaming. LAN Parties started being organized by groups of people as social get-together events and games played over the LAN network. One of the games that stood out as the choice for multiplayer events was Quake, a multiplayer action game developed by ID Software.

The fever of games saw a rise again with Quake becoming an increasingly popular game for the LAN parties. It led to a lot of highly experienced Quake players. In 1997, Quake organized The Red Annihilation- considered as the first true eSports competition. Because of the power of online gaming, more than 2000 players faced each other in the competition. The number of finalists was 16, and they were flown to Atlanta in the USA for the competition held at Electronic Entertainment Expo. The Red Annihilation was a historic event in the history of the eSports industry. The industry got its first eSports competition winner in the form of Dennis “Thresh” Fong, who bagged the grand prize in the tournament. He received Ferrari 328 GTS as the grand prize. He was also inducted into the ESL Hall of Fame, became the first pro gamer, and recognized in the Guinness World Records.

In the late 1990s, Asia was hit by a financial crisis. Not many could afford to have either computer systems or internet connections in their homes. It led to the widespread popularity of Internet Cafes that first started in South Korea. The concept of Internet Cafes was soon adopted in many Asian countries and even worldwide. Internet Cafes are a place that provides access of internet to people for a fee. The year 1999 also saw the launch of Counter-Strike, a multiplayer action game played over the network. It became an instant hit worldwide. The internet cafes thronged with a group of people playing Counter-strike over the internet.

Evolution of eSports in the 21st century:

- 2000s
Esports Industry and Esports competitions were a worldwide phenomenon with the increasing popularity of eSports. Numerous TV channels were launched for broadcasting the Esports games. The no. of gaming competitions and the prize money saw a steep rise, making it viable for pro gamers to make a career out of it. In 2000, about a dozen gaming tournaments were organized worldwide, which increased by 20-fold in 2010.

Esports Industry - Twitch:

The gaming industry was awaiting a revolution, and it happened with the launch of Twitch.tv in 2011. Twitch facilitated video game players to stream their games live, and also enabled broadcasting of gaming championships online to the audience worldwide. Twitch spurred the growth of the online gaming (knows as eSports) industry to unimaginable heights.

The period after the launch of Twitch saw a meteoric rise in the no. of competitions; the no. of gamers; and the no. of spectators who love watching the sport. The period from the late 2000s, to the few years after the launch of Twitch in 2011 shaped the Video Gaming Industry into the eSports Industry as we know it today.

Current eSports Statistics:

Let us have a look at some of the mind-boggling statistics of the eSports Industry:

1. As per the statistics collected by Maryville University, the eSports Industry is expected to surpass $1.5 billion in revenue by 2023.

2. The viewership of eSports is expected to increase to 646 million by 2023.

3. According to the data by Influencer Marketing Hub, the time spent on watching content on live-streaming platforms in Q3 of 2020 was 7.46 billion hours.

4. According to the data by Streamlabs, the amount of time of content streamed on popular live-streaming platforms is as follows:

Twitch: 205.6 mn hours

YouTube Gaming Live: 12.5 mn hours

Facebook Gaming: 7.6 mn hours

According to the above data, 91.1% of the streamers prefer Twitch for Live streaming.

5. According to the forecasts by Newzoo, emerging markets like Southeast Asia, India, and Brazil will be at the forefront of the growth of eSports worldwide. Mobile esports is making it even more viable for growth. The games like PUBG enjoyed a huge spike in the past year.

The 10 most popular games every gamer should know:

According to the data by ESportsObserver, here is the list of 10 most popular games in eSports according to their prize pool in 2020:

1. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive:

Esports Industry

Launched in 2012, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) is a multiplayer first-person shooter game developed by Valve Corporation and Hidden Path Entertainment based out of Washington. It is the 4th game in the Counter-Strike series and has taken the gaming world by storm since its release. According to the estimates mentioned on Wikipedia, it has drawn more than 11 million players per month since its release; and CS: GO Tournaments have been among the elites in the gaming industry.

2. DOTA 2:

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Released in July 2013, DOTA 2 is yet another game developed by Valve Corporation. DOTA 2 is one of the favorites in the gaming industry; all of the Top 10 eSports with the highest earnings play DOTA 2.

3. League of Legends:

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Released by the Los Angeles-based Riot Games in 2009, the League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game. This game is said to have been inspired by DOTA. Stats reveal that as of 2020, League of Legends has around 115 million users.

4. Fortnite:

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Released by Epic games in 2017, Fortnite is a game that is available in three versions: Fortnite: Save the World, Fortnite Battle Royale, Fortnite Creative. According to the information on Wikipedia, Fortnite: Battle Royale is considered the best among the three versions. It has attracted more than 125 million players in less than a year of its release.

5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Esports Industry

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a game developed by Infinity Ward, an American video game developer; and published by Activision, a video game publisher based out of California. It is the 16th installment in the Call of Duty series. It has more than 2 million players currently, even though the sequels are released.

6. Rainbow Six Siege:

Esports Industry

Rainbow Six Siege is the latest inclusion in the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six series. It has been developed by Ubisoft Montreal, a Canadian developer, and published by Ubisoft Entertainment SA, a French video game publishing company.

7. Overwatch:

Esports Industry

Developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment in 2016, Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer FPS. Overwatch had attracted more than 50 million players in just three years of its release.

8. PUBG:

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PlayersUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUB-G) is an online multiplayer battle royale game. It was released in December of 2017 by PUBG Corporation (Krafton Inc.). It is a subsidiary of Bluehole, a South Korean video game company. It has become a rage in many parts of the world since its release. According to Wiki, it is the best-selling, highest-grossing, most-played video game of all times.

9. Hearthstone:

Esports Industry

Another feather on the hat of Blizzard Entertainment is the game called Hearthstone, released in 2014. It is a free-to-play online digital collectible card game. As of November 2018, Hearthstone has more than 100 million players.

10. Rocket League:

Esports Industry

Developed by San Diego-based Psyonix, Rocket League is a vehicular soccer video game released in 2015. By the beginning of 2018, it had already attracted more than 40 million players because of its ‘Soccer, but with rocket-powered cars’ playing module.

Highest Followed Twitch Streamers:

According to the latest information available on Wikipedia, here are the Top 10 most followed Twitch streamers:

1. Ninja:

Esports Industry Tyler Blevins, popularly known on Twitch as Ninja is the highest followed Twitch streamer with 16.9 million followers as of Jan 2021. He plays Fortnite, Valorant, and League of Legends.

2. Tfue:

Turner Tenney, popularly known on Twitch as Tfue, has garnered 10 million followers. His favorite games that he plays more often are Fortnite and Call Of Duty: Warzone.

3. Shroud:

Michael Grzesiek, popularly known by his game name Shroud on Twitch, plays a variety of games like Escape from Tarkov, Valorant, etc., and has garnered 9 million followers on the platform.

4. Rubius:

Ruben Doblas, known on Twitch as Rubius, plays a variety of games like Minecraft, Among Us, Just Chatting, etc. He has garnered 8.2 million followers on his channel.

5. XQC:

Felix Lengyel, popularly known as XQC, is among the list of elite streamers on Twitch. He plays a variety of games and has garnered 7.6 million followers on the platform. In 2020, he earned $1.98 million, making him the highest-earning streamer on the platform.

6. Pokimane:

Esports Industry Imane Anys, better known by the online name Pokimane is by far, the most followed female streamer with 7.4 million followers. She is a Moroccan-Canadian streamer who plays a variety of games that includes Just chatting and many others.

7. Myth:

Most commonly known as Myth, or TSM Myth, Ali Kabbanil is a professional Fortnite Battle Royale Player. His streams have garnered 7.3 million followers.

8. AuronPlay:

Spanish Streamer Raul Alvarez, popularly known in the gaming industry with his Twitch Stream AuronPlay, plays the games like Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto V, and Among US. He has garnered 7.3 million followers on the platform.

9. The Grefg:

Another Spanish streamer David Canovas, alias TheGrefg on Twitch, loves playing games like Fortnite and Minecraft for his massive group of 6.6 million followers.

10. TimTheTatMan:

Timothy Betar, popularly known on the internet with his online name TimTheTatMan plays various games, including Call of Duty: Warzone on his stream that has garnered 6.1 million followers.

Highest Paid eSports Players:

1. Johan Sundstein:

Esports Industry Known by his nickname N0tail, Johan (aged 25) from Denmark is the highest paid eSports player with $6.9 million as his overall earnings. He is currently a player for Team OG and plays DOTA 2.

2. Jesse Vainikka:

Known by his nickname JerAx, Jesse (aged 26) from Finland is the second on the list of highest-paid eSports players with $6.4 million in his earnings. He has played with Team Liquid and Team OG and is a DOTA 2 professional player.

3. Anathan Pham:

Known by his nickname Ana, Anatham (aged 20) from Australia is the third in the list of highest-paid eSports players with $6 million in his earnings.

4. Sebastien Debs:

Known by his nickname Ceb, Sebastien (aged 28) from France is the fourth highest-paid eSports player with total earnings of $5.5 million. He plays for Team OG and is a well-known professional DOTA 2 player.

5. Topias Taavitsainen:

Known by his nickname Topson, Topias (aged 22) from Finland ranks fifth among the highest-paid eSports players with overall earnings of $5.4 million. He currently plays for Team OG.

6. Kuro Takhasomi:

Esports Industry Known by his nickname KuroKy, Kuro (aged 26) from Germany is sixth on the list with his overall earnings of $5.1 million. Kuro is a DOTA 2 player who supports Team Liquid in the tournaments.

7. Amer Al-Barkawi:

Known by his nickname Miracle-, Amer (aged 21) from Jordan is #7 in this list with his overall earnings of $4.8 million through the prize money in the tournaments. He is a carry who has played with both Team Liquid and Team OG.

8. Ivan Ivanov:

Known by his nickname MinD_ControL, Ivan (aged 24) from Bulgaria is a professional DOTA 2 player who plays with Team Liquid. He ranks 8th on the list with his overall earnings of $4.5 million received as the prize money from the tournaments.

9. Maroun Merhej:

Known by his nickname GH, Maroun (aged 23) from Lebanon bags the ninth position in the list with his overall earnings of $4.1 million. He is a professional DOTA 2 player who plays as support for Team Liquid.

10. Lasse Urpalainen:

Known by his nickname Matumbaman, Lasse (aged 24) from Finland ranks 10th in the list with his overall earnings of $3.7 million received as prize money from the tournaments.

Is Chess an eSport?

If the already existing debate 'Is Chess a Sport?' wasn’t enough, the boom of Online Chess (especially during the pandemic) has spurred yet another debate- 'Is Chess an eSport?'.

Given that the International Olympics Committee has recognized Chess as a Sport, and (as per the reports) more than 100 countries recognize Chess as a Sport, it is safe to assume the same. And why not? Chess isn’t easy. The following are some of the reasons presented by Chess enthusiasts and players to prove:

1. Chess requires both mental and physical fitness

2. It is mentally straining

3. Chess requires Skill

4. It is Competitive

5. Players practice Sportsmanship

6. National representation by Teams in tournaments

That said, Chess is being considered a Sport. But, is it an eSport? It is safe to accept that it is. eSports games are played electronically between the players in an offline arena or online. The online boom of Chess, in recent times, has made it easy for people to play electronically through mobile or a system. The tournaments are conducted online, and moreover, there has been a rise in the number of Chess streamers. The pandemic era resulted in a meteoric rise in the number of people taking up Chess on the platforms like Chess.com.

In August 2020, a Chess Grandmaster and a well-known player in the Chess Community- Hikaru Nakamura has been signed up by a renowned eSports organization called TSM (Team SoloMid).

The eSports organizations signing up Chess players, and including Chess in the portfolio of their games makes it evident that Chess is growing to be an eSport.

Is Fantasy Sport an eSport?

Fantasy Sport is an online game in which a player creates a virtual team with names of real players. The games under Fantasy Sport include Cricket, Card games (Rummy), Kabaddi, Badminton, Carrom, Hockey, etc. Fantasy Sport is rising to be an eSport, but it would take some more time for development before it is officially recognized globally. In some parts of the world like India, Fantasy Sports has taken over the gaming arena in the country by storm, giving rise to the gaming unicorns like Dream11, and the likes Mobile Premier League, Balle Baazi, HalaPlay, etc. with millions of users on the platform within a span of 3-4 years of their launch.


Over the last 5-7 decades, the gaming industry has evolved from being a video game competition between groups of players in a social get-together to becoming the eSports industry as we know it today. The growth of eSports in the last two decades is remarkable and startling, and it shows no signs of slowing down. According to statistics by Statista, there were 2.69 billion video gamers worldwide, and the figure is expected to increase to 3.07 video gamers by 2023. Hence, eSports is a potential sector that is attracting investments from organizations globally. With the surge in popularity and viewership, eSports is here to stay and is expected to grow more popular with time.

What are your thoughts on eSports? Did you find this article helpful?

Do let us know in the comments below.

Image Credits:

Arcade Game: Rob Boudon, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Atari 2600: Wikipedia

NES Console: Wikipedia Twitch: Gage Skidmore on Flickr
N0tail: Dota 2 The International, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Copyrights © 2024 Inspiration Unlimited eMagazine

Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 20th June 2021.
Kunal Jain
Kunal Jain works as an Outreach Specialist at iU

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